The first year of freelancing is all about making mistakes. No matter how many online courses you take. No matter how many blogs you read. And no matter how many experts you follow on Twitter. You are going to make mistakes.
But this is a good thing because it’s the only way that we learn. Freelancing experiences aren’t universal. Which is why taking someone else’s advice as the gospel can be so problematic.
It’s like learning to swim. You could watch all of the YouTube videos in the world and have a basic grasp of how to do it. But until you’re in the deep end, thrashing through the water, you’ll never fully understand what it means to swim.
Trust your instincts
My business is fast paced. I might have an enquiry land in my inbox overnight, schedule a call for the morning and get working on the new project in the afternoon. My clients are typically looking for someone now. They track me down because they have too much to do and they need to outsource it.
This doesn’t give me much time to mull things over. And it means that I’ve learned to start trusting my instincts.
Probably the biggest piece of advice I would give new freelancers is to trust your instincts and to act on the warning signs.
Every time a project has gone wrong for me, I’ve always been able to pinpoint the exact moment when I decided to ignore my instincts and plough ahead regardless.
In this article, I’ll share some of the early warning signs that a project might go sour.
And if I’ve missed anything, I’d love it if your shared your thoughts in the comments!
Freelance Client Red Flags: What Freelancers Need To Look Out For
They don’t want to sign a contract
Refusing to sign your freelancer agreement isn’t the end of the road, because sometimes they will have their own in-house agreement for you to sign. That’s perfectly fine. But refusing to sign a contract before you start work could be a sign they are hoping to skip out on the bill.
They don’t appreciate your value
When you send a proposal with your rates and they immediately try to slash your prices, you know that they haven’t made the link between the work you provide and the value you bring to the table. Some clients might have a very good reason for needed to negotiate down (small business, charity, not for profit) but a successful business owner should appreciate that you’ve set your prices for a reason.
They want to control everything
Micromanagers are hard to deal with in full-time, face-to-face roles. Now imagine they’re half-way across the world and need to get in touch every 5 minutes. They should be able to set the task and then leave you to it. This type of behaviour can be very draining. Remember that responding to their emails is also work, but you usually can’t bill them for it.
They always pay you late
Okay, so this one might not rear its ugly head until further down the line. If you always feel that you have to chase payments and start to feel crummy for asking, you can treat this as a giant red flag. Sometimes late payments are unavoidable; setting up payments for new contractors can be complex. But consistent late payment is the kind of stress that no freelancer should have to put up with.
They don’t appreciate your expertise
I’ve been hired as a consultant by people who clearly just wanted an assistant. This type of behaviour can really erode your confidence, so make sure you always work with people who recognise your expertise. It’s fine to have a difference of opinion with clients, but if they don’t give you the space to do your best work, it might be time to walk away.
They don’t respect your time
This can become apparent in so many different ways. They might cancel meetings with no notice. They might use “ASAP” with no regard for your schedule. Or they might just send you work requests at unreasonable times. These warning signs usually go hand in hand with a client who is also slow to respond when you need something. It’s normal for clients to be busy, but if they only get in touch when they need something and they are unavailable the rest of the time, treat this as a huge warning sign.
They’re on their 8th freelancer this month
If you find yourself picking up where multiple other people left off, you have to wonder what went wrong. You might notice the client trash talking the other freelancers they have worked with. It’s fine if they have just been burned in the past, but if they go through a lot of different freelancers and can’t seem to find the right fit, you’d be right to ask why.
This might sound like a passive aggressive rant about my own clients. This is not the case. I love my clients because they don’t do any of these annoying things. I recognise that it’s a two-way street, and freelancers are also guilty of some questionable behaviour. I’m currently working on an article for clients looking for freelancer reg flags. Watch this space!